Part 4 of 4Bodhinatha continues his talk on vratas by elucidating the dasama bhaga vrata, the tithing vow. This vow relates to our finances, but at a deeper level it has the power to harness desire for the sake of the stability of one's whole family. In conclusion he speaks about how the devas look at our vratas and how vows can effect a positive change on our karma.
The third vrata is Dasama Bhaga Vrata which, of course, relates to our finances. But the point Gurudeva makes is, it is also a way of controlling desire. Sakahara Vrata helps us control the instinctive mind. Parampara Vrata helps us control the intellectual mind and Dasama Bhaga Vrata helps us harness desire.
Why is that? Well, that is because lots of desires are fulfilled by spending money, right? We are desiring things, desiring physical objects and to get them we have to spend money. So the two go together. The measure of that is when you get a paycheck, what happens? What is the first thing that happens? What do we do when we get a paycheck? We rush to the store and buy this thing we have been dying to get for a couple of weeks, that we can't live without! Or, do we do something else? Modern advertising being what it is and desire being what it is, sometimes that is what people do. Rush to the store with their paycheck and buy some things that they really think they can't live without and a few months later they don't use them anymore. They want to buy something new and use that for a few months and so forth. Frivolous desire.
Therefore, in fulfilling the Dasama Bhaga Vrata, the key is - What do we do first? Because that sets the tone for how we are handling the money. What do we do first with this money? So the idea is well, we give a portion of it to God. We spiritualize the whole process. We think about God, we don't think about fulfilling some frivolous desire with it as our first action. We think about, well let us give a portion of this back to God because without God's blessing, it would not come in the first place. We give a portion of it back and of course, that is ten percent, that is part of the vrata.
For those who are just starting this practice, it is good to do it in some kind of ceremony. It is a new habit that we want to establish and until the habit gets strong, it is easier to fulfill it all the time by sticking to it, in a ceremony. The ceremony we suggest is, taking your paycheck into the shrine room, do a little Ganesha arati seeking Ganesha's blessing and write your tithing check. Give a portion to God as the first expense, as part of the ceremony. After you have done that for a few years, then it is automatic. You never think of doing anything with your income until you have written your tithing check. It will be a strongly ingrained habit. That is what we suggest to those who are just developing the practice and making it a habit in their life.
A further step in fulfilling the Dasama Bhaga Vrata is to spend the whole amount of your money in a wise way, not just give ten percent to God and waste the rest without any particular plan. That is not the goal. The goal is to spend it in a wise way and of course, Gurudeva suggests having a budget, a household budget that has been developed according to your income and future plans, to help you spend the money wisely to benefit all the members of the family in appropriate ways and to set aside money for long term goals such as childrens' education and your own personal retirement. These should be part of the budget and ideally, you should be saving for those on a monthly basis.
That is the goal of Dasama Bhaga Vrata, to bring a spiritual perspective into our financial life and therefore, harness desire and end up spending our money as wisely as possible for the benefit of all the members of the family.
Gurudeva has some nice thoughts in conclusion which I will quote from him, they are so beautifully worded. "Accepting the three vows is essential to anyone aspiring to be a sishya. The devonic adepts," meaning the devas, "take these vows very seriously. Knowing that once a vow is taken at an auspicious moment in life, the karmas yet to come, change slightly to the positive side so long as the vow is upheld."
That is a very interesting statement, which is worth thinking about. The karmas yet to come change slightly to the positive side. So that is how we change our karma. But we don't change it totally. It works out better than it would have otherwise. We change it slightly to the positive side by these kinds of disciplines.
"But when vows are neglected, the full force of the held back karmas not previously dissolved, mostly the bad ones, comes as a blow to individual family and friends." We want to avoid that. "Upholding these three vows, three vratas builds discipline and character. All of this mastery of the forces of mind, body and emotion gives strength to face the future and perhaps, though there are no guarantees, to attain moksha, God Realization in this life. Aum."